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Preaching As Expository Exultation

Jul 31, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

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Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. Every sermon explains and applies the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all sixty-six books of it. The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Therefore, it is mainly Bible exposition—explanation and application.

And the preacher’s job is to do that in a way that enables us to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If they come from the Bible and you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will rest on man and not God.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest some biblical truth that will make your spiritual bones more like steel, and double the capacity of your spiritual lungs, and make the eyes of your heart dazzled with God’s greatness, and awaken the capability of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.

Preaching is also exultation—expository exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply understand what he explains, but the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.

– John Piper, “God So Loved the World, Part 2″

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Win “Gospel Shaped Worship”: Giveaway 3

Jul 30, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

gscworshipkit_medium.w5ieh3xp7f2wdu5omi3kd2456imy6c4cI’m giving away 5 copies of the Leader’s Kit for my new study Gospel Shaped Worship, published by The Good Book Co. in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition.

For today’s free copy, tell me the silliest thing you’ve ever seen passed off as “worship” in a church service. (No names, please!) I’ll pick the most terrible example from the comments by tomorrow (7/31).

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Too Earthly Minded to Be Any Heavenly Good?

Jul 30, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

c-s-lewis-348“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither.”

— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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Win “Gospel Shaped Worship”: Giveaway 2

Jul 29, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

gscworshipkit_medium.w5ieh3xp7f2wdu5omi3kd2456imy6c4cI’m giving away 5 copies of the Leader’s Kit for my new study Gospel Shaped Worship, published by The Good Book Co. in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition.

For today’s free copy, tell me why the Christian’s worship needs to be shaped by the gospel. I’ll pick the strongest answer from the comments by tomorrow (7/30).

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Your Sin Will Find You Out, But So Will His Righteousness

Jul 29, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

newspaper_shutterstock_124029454… be sure your sin will find you out.
– Numbers 32:23

In the news a couple of years ago I read a report from Kennebunkport, Maine that a fitness trainer had turned her business into an underground prostitution ring. I am not clear on whether there were multiple prostitutes available or just her, but the primary focus was on the “johns,” a variety of local men, some of them quite prominent figures, whose names were listed in the newspapers. The ensuing debate is over whether such a practice is appropriate. Won’t it ruin these men’s lives and devastate their families? The public shaming is part of the attempt to crack down on prostitution in the area.

I confess I’m not sure how I feel about the publishing of the names. I feel similar in my reaction to those who hang out in the parking lots of adult bookstores and strip clubs, snapping photos of the patrons as they come and go, to print their pics in the local paper, “outing” them. It’s an effort to “take back” neighborhoods, which I certainly sympathize with. In the latter example, nothing illegal (theoretically) is taking place, while of course in the former case, it is. And I guess I can also see the logic in publicizing the names of those soliciting prostitution as way of creating parity with other crimes, whose suspects are regularly named in the media.

And I suppose this is essentially a modern fulfillment of the biblical principle: “your sins will find you out.”

Your sins will find you out. You won’t get away with it. There will be justice. In this life or the next. Or both.

I think many of us who have tasted of the Lord’s holiness have a degree, some more than others, of the shame of sin. We envision the day when we will stand before the Lord to give an account of everything we’ve done. I recall preachers past suggesting a giant movie screen will play before God and everybody of all our sins, the ones external and internal, the ones we remember and the ones we don’t. Every single drop of bitterness, unkind word, every single second of lust, every hateful thought, every self-indulgent theft of the glory belonging only to God in stunning color and panoramic vision. Like a list of names in the newspaper or only infinitely worse. “This man! This man is a pervert” the broadcast will reveal.

But then there is the promise of my holy God himself—that his Son is not ashamed to call me his brother (Hebrews 2:11). He oughta be! But he’s not. He has satisfied justice by taking the endless list of my sins upon himself, bearing my shame on a public cross beneath a paper vindictively, sarcastically publishing his name. I stake everything on that promise and the promises from which it is derived. There is the promise that he will present me blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (Jude 24). Oh, he will read a list, all right. He calls it the Lamb’s Book of Life. And because this ferociously holy and glory-jealous God has foreknown me, elected me, justified me, sanctified me, is sanctifying me, and will glorify me, my name will be found in it.

“This man! This man is a good and faithful servant” the broadcast will reveal. For I have been covered in the righteousness of my precious Redeemer. He has cast my sins in to the depths of the sea to remember them no more. (Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!)

Christian, be sure his righteousness will find you out.

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Win “Gospel Shaped Worship”: Giveaway 1

Jul 28, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

gscworshipkit_medium.w5ieh3xp7f2wdu5omi3kd2456imy6c4cOver the next week or so, I’ll be giving away 5 copies of the Leader’s Kit for my new study Gospel Shaped Worship, published by The Good Book Co. in conjunction with The Gospel Coalition.

For today’s free copy, tell me the funniest thing you ever witnessed in a worship gathering. I’ll pick a winner out of the comments by tomorrow (7/29).

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What Does Job 31:13-15 Tell Us About the Unborn?

Jul 28, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

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“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?”
—Job 31:13-15

This passage tells us at least three things about the unborn, and thus about abortion:

1. The foundation of civil equality is traced to the womb.

Really, it is traced to God’s having made mankind in his image, but the well-to-do Job is asserting an equality of personhood with his servants based on their equal status as unborn children. Therefore, the unborn are persons with civil rights. This makes abortion a dehumanizing injustice.

2. The development of the unborn is a work of God.

Job says he and his servants were made in the womb, fashioned in the womb. Coupled with Psalm 139-s words on God’s creative work in the womb, we learn that abortion is therefore a tearing apart what God has joined together.

3. The treatment of persons as non-persons is something for which we will give an account.

“What shall I do when God rises up?” Job asks about unjust treatment of his servants. And what will we say? Injustice of this kind will be reckoned with. We will have to give an account to our holy God for the murder of millions of unborn persons he is forming in his image.

No law can be just if its justice for one is predicated on injustice to another.

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The Quest for Gospel Holiness

Jul 27, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

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The Puritan John Owen wrote: “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing and realizing of the gospel in our souls.” What Christ seeks in his church is what the gospel promises and provides. The quest for gospel holiness cannot mean acquiring confident expertise in the practice of the virtues. When Benjamin Franklin proposed to reform his life by shedding once vice at a time, he prepared an unintentional caricature of a Puritan spiritual journal.

The life of holiness is the life of faith in which the believer, with a deepening knowledge of his own sin and helplessness apart from Christ, increasingly casts himself upon the Lord, and seeks the power of he Spirit and the wisdom and comfort of the Bible to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is not a lonely or cheerless struggle, for Christ gives the Spirit to the members of his body to help one another… . Maturing in holiness means maturing in love, love that knows God’s love poured out in our hearts, and answers with love that tastes the goodness of the Lord.

– Edmund Clowney

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Jesus Did Not Say “Teach the Sheep to Self-Feed”

Jul 24, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 6.18.01 AMIn John 21:15, Jesus asks Peter a question. Basically, “Do you love me?”

Peter says yes.

And Jesus didn’t say, “Then teach my sheep how to self-feed.” No, he tells Peter, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus is referring to a shepherd’s personal care for the flock, and specifically he is helping Peter see that his (Peter’s) role must reflect the work of Christ himself. “If you love me,” in other words, “you will do for others what I have done for you.” And we do not see Jesus simply handing out resources and programs to his disciples, but sitting with them, walking with them, eating with them, praying with them, touching them and encouraging them and counseling them and correcting them. He does not hide behind his office door labeled “Messiah for Preaching and Vision.” He is sweating and crying and sleeping in front of them. And he dies for them.
Jesus the pastor knows that the sheep need a shepherd (Matt. 9:36).

This doesn’t mean an end to programmed provision. It doesn’t mean we abandon our classes or our resource centers. What it does mean, though, is that we ought to put an end to the notion that The Program is the key to spiritual growth. It means we cannot install an event, and when we see it doesn’t work, install another event and hope it succeeds.

Systems may aid the discipleship process, but discipleship is not a system. Discipleship is following Jesus. It requires help that is much more personal and relational.

The programmatic approach, and even the self-feeding approach, assumes that what people lack is a set of skills to address their felt needs for success or competence. But what any Christian enterprise ought to assume is that, beneath all our confusion and ignorance, what people really lack is a heart for God and neighbor. Underneath our felt needs is an entire industry of idols emerging from a foundation of sin and longing for glory. Only the gospel can get to that level and deal with it. This is why Jesus doesn’t say, “teach my sheep,” although he certainly wants us to teach. He says, “feed my sheep.” Because he knows what we all really need first and foremost is the word of life that satisfies and sustains.

Isn’t it odd that for so long we have begun with the idea that we must demonstrate how practical and applicable to everyday life Christianity is, yet so few people are actually being matured by the process that begins that way? I think it has something to do with the fact that we aren’t beginning by addressing the real problem. We assume it is dysfunction or lack of success, when really it is sin. We need skills, sure. But we need grace first and most.

What good is it anyway to win people to the life of a church’s programs if they aren’t in love with Jesus? The attractional church too often holds up Jesus as more of a role model than the sovereign God, not so much as the Door as merely the doorman to success and happiness.

And so we have to give permission for someone to ask us the uncomfortable question at any given time: Are we trusting our programs, or are we trusting God?

I don’t believe the right response to “the programs aren’t working” is to conclude that the life of the church is not the place for Christians both new and “old” to be fed. I don’t believe the right response to “our goods and services aren’t having their desired effect” is to work on creating more independent Christians, trusting them to get it right somehow all by themselves. Whatever our programs, our churches’ leaders need to take seriously the command of Christ—in as many ways as possible—to feed his sheep.

But this may require a radical reorienting not simply of programs or expectations but of the leader’s aims. If we simply want more people or better people, a different set of programs and events might accomplish that. But if we want Christ-exalting, Christ-loving, Christ-following people, we have to get more personal and go deeper.

We have to get beyond simply trying to move warm bodies around through the systems and actually try moving the gospel into the system of those bodies. And that means figuring out the difference between managing people’s activities and pastoring people’s hearts.

– from The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo (pp. 144-146)

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What Does a Baby Do to be Born?

Jul 24, 2015 | Jared C. Wilson

imagesJesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . .” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
— John 3:3,8

What does a baby do to be born?

The Spirit moves as the wind—free, unfettered, invisible. The Spirit is sovereign over regenerative quickening as the Father is sovereign over the election unto it, granting new hearts to everyone predestined to receive them at their appointed time. This speaks to the Spirit’s control over rebirth. A person cannot “will himself” a new heart any more than a baby can will himself to be conceived.

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